Shaquille O’Neal: “No Question In Game 5 LeBron Was Kind Of Out Of It…It was weird”

Turns out Shaq is talking about his time in Cleveland too in his soon to be released basketball memoir after all.

In the book titled Shaq Uncut: My Story, co-authored by Jackie MacMullan, O’Neal discusses some of the goings on with LeBron James and the panic-stricken Cavaliers organization during LeBron and Shaq’s season together as teammates during the 2010-11 campaign, LeBron’s last in Cleveland.  

Shaq says that nobody was allowed to be confrontational with LeBron during that time, it was weird how James played in the 2010 Game 5 Eastern Conference Final loss to the Celtics, and that Delonte West even called out Coach Mike Brown for “pussyfooting around” with his handling of LeBron.

This from excerpts of the book posted at HoopsWorld this morning:

LeBron was a huge star. He was as big as I was in 2000 in L.A. when I was dominating the league. … Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with LeBron. Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do.

I remember one day in a film session LeBron didn’t get back on defense after a missed shot. Mike Brown didn’t say anything about it. He went to the next clip and it was Mo Williams not getting back and Mike was saying, “Yo, Mo, we can’t have that. You’ve got to hustle a little more.” So Delonte West is sitting there and he’s seen enough and he stands up and says, “Hold up, now. You can’t be pussyfooting around like that. Everyone has to be accountable for what they do, not just some us.”

Mike Brown said, “I know, Delonte. I know.” Mike knew Delonte was right. … I’m not sure if Kobe is going to listen to Mike Brown. LeBron never really did. Here’s what we do know: Kobe will definitely be in charge.

As a noted Mike Brown apologist, and firm believer in the idea that Mike Brown tried to coach LeBron James but LeBron chose not to listen too him, this little nugget of information from Shaq smacked me directly in the back of my head.  Turns out Mike Brown didn’t try to coach LeBron James at all really, and was even reminded by Delonte West that he might want to do so before the whole thing blew up in everybody’s face.  Which it most certainly of course did, starting in the Game 5 Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Boston Celtics where LeBron James shot a free throw with his left hand for some reason.

More from Shaquille:

There’s no question in Game 5 LeBron was kind of out of it. … I always believed he could turn it on at any moment, but for some reason he didn’t. Not against the Celtics in 2010 and not against the Mavericks in 2011. It was weird. It’s one thing to be a passer, but you are supposed to be the One. I’m watching him play against Dallas, and they’re swinging the ball and they get him a perfect open look – and he’s kicking it to Mario Chalmers. Makes no sense. I told people, “It’s like Michael Jordan told me. Before you succeed, you must first fail.”

Right, but Mike’s version of failing was missing that perfect open look – not kicking it to BJ Armstrong.  Anyways, as a Cavaliers fan it is for some reason at least reassuring in some ways to hear that whatever did transpire in that Game 5 with LeBron felt weird to Shaq too.  The whole thing from a fan’s perspective just felt like, wait, what?  What just happened?  His elbow got hurt, huh?  He’s never coming back?  You know what I mean, there really wasn’t an opportunity for closure.

Makes you also wonder too, why didn’t Mike Brown coach LeBron?  Was that a directive coming from the top, from LeBron’s camp, Mike Brown’s idea, what?

The flip side of that makes you also think, is that really the way LeBron wanted it?  As a man, LeBron didn’t feel weird that Mo Williams was getting called out right in front of him for something that he also should be called out for?  Now sure, Mo Williams never was going to go out and get you 50 points – absolutely – but what about after Delonte called out Mike Brown, what was James thinking sitting there then watching all that?

I suppose we’ll never know, or maybe that’s just one more reason to go buy Shaq’s book.

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.